One week after: some reflection on the past and the future
The next week we held a meeting in Neve Shalom Wahat al-Salam, to sum up our experience after a short interval, and to see what we wanted to do as a group in the future. The meeting was attended by 15 of the participants and lasted about two hours. After some small talk at the beginning, we started the meeting with our usual silent reflection. Afterwards Dorit showed us a slide presentation which she had specially prepared using pictures from our Journey. It was quite impressive! We then made a round to hear how the participants had found the week following their return. They gave fairly routine answers, which was a bit disappointing, but nevertheless it was good to know that everyone had been able to rest and hadn’t felt a big let-down after all the excitement.
For our next activity, the main activity of the evening, we brought out pictures from the Journey which we had printed and laid these out on the floor. The pictures showed us in the various places we had visited: the old city of Jaffa, the abandoned villages, the Holocaust Museum, the kayaks, holy places, coffee shops and more. We spread the pictures on the floor and allowed the participants to have a look at them. We then asked them to choose a picture which described the relations between the different groups present in the journey (like Jews, Arabs, men, women, etc.). We went around listening to the answers. Most of the young people chose pictures which showed everyone together and said that this describes how they were all together and enjoyed each others company. No one chose a picture reflecting conflict or tension. We then asked them to choose a picture that describes the most meaningful moment of the journey for them. They were not very concentrated at this point and we were only able to get a few answers, so we cut this part short and had a break for food before moving on to the final part of the evening which was to decide what we want to do in the future with the group.
We told them that we were thinking of conducting another activity in the winter, but were also open to suggestions. A few of the participants suggested that we meet regularly, every time in someone else’s village, which is something we had thought of and were quite excited about, but there weren’t enough participants willing to take that on, so we left it to their initiative. There were no other serious ideas discussed, so we kind of left it open to anyone who wanted to take the initiative and organize a meeting and we promised to do our best to help. To close our meeting, we said a few more concluding words and then parted. Perhaps it will be the last time some of us see each other, and perhaps it is the beginning of some very special relationships and activity that will continue deep into our futures – who knows?
All in all, our journey was a great success. We managed to engage in a deep learning experience together. Getting to know more about one another’s history, culture and beliefs while strengthening our own identities and forming stronger and more grounded understandings. We were happy that we were able to present difficult and challenging issues to the group and dealt with them without fracturing the relationships within the group and without resorting to hurtful arguments and break-downs. It may have been just a small step in breaking down the deeply entrenched walls of isolation between the different national and religious groups in our country, but it was an important and successful one. In the current climate of despair, small steps such as these are both rare and precious, and we should all feel proud and privileged to have taken part. We hope we have many more chances in the near and far future to experience further change and growth towards a free, pluralistic and fulfilled society.
We thank all those that took part and made this journey a reality, especially The Arigatou Foundation and the Global Network of religions for children
Thanks to Rotem Mor for writing the day-by-day description of the Journey.
 A decision was recently made to allow reference to the Nakba in Arabic language text books (though not in Jewish ones).